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Safe Food Handling Tips from the Department of Environmental Health

November 23, 2011 (San Diego County) -- Thanksgiving is a time when family and friends come together to celebrate. Because large amounts of food are often prepared and served, food safety is very important. Here are a few safety tips to prevent microscopic guests from joining your party.




PLAN AHEAD: Decide how much food can be safely served. Take into account available cooking and refrigerator space. Thinking of defrosting a frozen turkey? Plan ahead for safe, slow thawing in the refrigerator. A large turkey requires at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight. Get your meat thermometer ready for a busy day.


CLEAN: Wash your hands before and after handling food. Thoroughly rinse whole raw produce prior to use. Wash and sanitize the counters, cutting boards and equipment before and after preparing your holiday feast.


SEPARATE: Keep produce separated from raw meat products. Place turkey onto a plate or in a pan at the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods while defrosting in the refrigerator. When the turkey is defrosted it can remain refrigerated for 1-2 days before cooking. Use separate cutting boards for meat and fruits or vegetables, or thoroughly wash the boards with hot soapy water between uses.


COOK: Cook turkey and stuffing to165°F. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the proper cooking temperature is reached. The temperature of a whole turkey must reach 165ºF in the innermost part of the thigh. The safest way to cook stuffing is separately. Germs can thrive in the stuffing ingredients if it is improperly cooked in the turkey. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F before eating. Gravy should be reheated to a boil and leftovers, if heated, should be thoroughly reheated to 165° F.


CHILL: Keep cold foods at 41oF or less. Check the temperature inside your refrigerator. If preparing foods ahead of time, refrigerate to minimize bacterial growth. Slice or cut leftover turkey into small pieces. Refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers within two hours of cooking.

For additional information go to  or call the Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854
Have a safe Thanksgiving holiday.


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